January starts off with the bang and fizz of parties and gatherings still bubbling up after being catapulted across the threshhold of a new year. Then there comes a flurry of activity as we prepare and plan for just how to fill the 365 new days of this new year, resolutions flying higgledy-piggledy everywhere. I just duck and cover. Too much talking and prattle and planning. Huh-uh. I like to start off slow, propel gently into the new year, get to know Mr. 2008 before I impose all my rules and regulations on him. I was very comfortable with Mr. 2007; we'd grown quite close and celebrated much together but it was time to bid farewell ready or not. I've decided Mr. '08 is fairly nice so far, although he's fascinated with snow and I am not. Well, first things first I have to teach this new guy a thing or two, establish some ground rules. I think your Mr. 2008 would agree. So this weekend February rolled in with a soft bounce and I was ready.
Mr. 2008, I would like to begin our time together by teaching you about the importance of the sugar cookie.
There are some things that equate the very celebration of a holiday. You know what I'm talking about, when one thing immediately brings to mind the other? In the very anticipation, preparation, and assembly you are building something much bigger. For me, this phenomenon presents itself on most holidays, especially Christmas. Preparing Christmas Eve dinner is as much about the preparation, the experience of cooking and being together, as the meal itself...maybe more. You might call it the rite of the holiday.
Now there just doesn't come a Valentine's Day that I don't get a deep-down, bottom of the belly tug for soft sugar cookies, more so than any other time of year (hmmm, Halloween takes a close second). I shy away from most roll-out cookies any other time - too much fuss. But come February these babies are one of those rites I was talking about.
When you mix the flour and sugar in the bowl, it's part of the celebration. When you roll them out, it's part of the celebration. When they dive happily into the warm frosting, it's part of the celebration. When precious little hands excitedly cover their every square millimeter with sugary candy, yup, part of the celebration. And eating them, well, this is the grand culmination, an important part of the celebration, but still only a part. I really love a yummy box of chocolates, but if it came down to a choice between that and my long-standing, memory-building cookie tradition? I bet you can guess which one I'd choose.
We couldn't imagine the thought of anyone missing out! Diets and other bad guys stand clear because we're teaching Mr. 2008 that the Valentine sugar cookie is here to stay.
Makes approximately 2 dozen three-inch cookies
These cookies are soft and utterly eatable. We girls all think they're even better than the butter and egg laden traditional sugar cookie. And you'll just have to believe us until you can see for yourself, so rev up your mixing bowl 'cuz something darn good is coming your way.
These are made with a butter substitute (we've successfully tried regular Benecol and Smart Balance, but not the light versions) and egg substitute (readily found in most supermarkets, usually right by the eggs). Just like regular butter, butter substitutes have fat in them, though of the heart-healthy variety, so it is still a good idea not to eat this by the spoonful! Egg substitutes are basically pasturized egg whites, but a little easier to cook with since you just pour them. If you desire, you can use the same measurement of egg white, obtained the old fashioned way by cracking the egg open and disposing of the yolk.
1 1/2 c powdered sugar, carefully spooned into measuring cup and leveled with a knife
1/2 c butter substitute
1/4 c egg substitute or egg white
1 t almond extract
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour, carefully spooned into measuring cup and leveled with a knife
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tartar
1/2 t salt
Mix the powdered sugar, butter substitute, egg substitute, and extracts together. Add the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and mix until incorporated. Chill dough for 2 hours. Heat oven to 375. Roll dough to about 1/3 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on lightly sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, depending on your oven. Cookies should not start to brown. It's important not to overbake; cookies will feel set but not firm leaving a very slight indent from fingertip. May be helpful to do a test run with with a scrap before running a whole batch through.
Fondant Glaze2 lb powdered sugar (they come in 2 lb bags at the store)
½ c water
½ c light corn syrup
1 t almond extract
½ t vanilla (you can play around with the flavorings, making sure to keep them to 1 1/2 t)
Combine all ingredients in top of a double boiler (can be created by settling a glass mixing bowl into the top of a pot filled with water, making sure that the bowl doesn't touch the bottom of the pot). Heat the mixture in the double boiler just to lukewarm. Remove the double boiler from the burner, but keep the mixing bowl immersed in the hot water to keep mixture thin. Add a drop or two of food coloring as desired. As you spend time frosting the cookies it may be necessary to add hot water, a few drops at a time, to maintain the consistency that you want. Spread on quickly with a pastry brush or just grasp the cookie by the outer edges, turn over, and dunk the entire face in the glaze. Suspend momentarily above the pot so the excess can drip off and then place on cooling rack to set (I use this method and it is lightning fast, if a little messy for the fingertips).